Flyers rookie Mikhail Vorobyev to return after 3 games in press box

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Flyers rookie Mikhail Vorobyev to return after 3 games in press box

VOORHEES, N.J. — Flyers management has been keeping close tabs on Mikhail Vorobyev’s press box seat.

They’ll always make sure it never gets too warm. 

After gaining a bird’s-eye view the past three games, the 21-year-old rookie will likely return to the ice Thursday, stepping into the pressure cooker of one of the toughest arenas in the NHL when the Flyers face the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.

Head coach Dave Hakstol made it clear there’s no perfect scenario of easing a first-year player back into the lineup.

“If you started looking at a soft spot in the schedule, you’d never put anyone in the lineup,” Hakstol said Wednesday. “Plain and simple. Find a soft spot in the schedule, there isn’t one. I want to get Mish back in. I think he’s going to go back in and get his opportunity, and if he goes back in, he’ll be back in the middle.”

Vorobyev is expected to center the Flyers' third line, where he started the season, but this time with Wayne Simmonds to his right and likely Jordan Weal on the left side. Much was expected out of Vorobyev when he made the Flyers straight out of training camp, but after taking the training wheels off it’s been a rough ride during his first month in the NHL.

“I think what he’s going through right now is fairly normal,” general manager Ron Hextall said. “He played two really good games, and then three out of four hasn’t been very good. It’s not good enough. An established player, you live with that because you know what he can do. Misha has to show us he can do it.”

Starting the season with points in his first two games, Vorobyev hit a rough patch. Not only did he fail to register a point, he didn’t manage a single shot on net in four straight games. He’s also been schooled on faceoffs with a percentage of 30.3.

It’s all a sharp contrast from September, when Vorobyev clearly beat out Weal and other contenders in the preseason for the third-line center job, but it’s a role that requires any player to shift into that extra gear once the regular season rolls around. At times, Vorobyev appears to be stuck in neutral. 

“Higher level of consistent effort in all three zones,” Hakstol said when he asked what he needs to see. “More tenacity on pucks. Little bit quicker play defensively without the puck. That needs to happen now.”

One area working in Vorobyev’s favor: He doesn’t know how painful it’s been to play in Boston, where the Flyers are 1-6-2 in their last nine games at TD Garden. At some point, the Flyers' rookie will be confronted with a less-than-ideal matchup against the Bruins' skilled forwards. Without Vorobyev, Hakstol believes the Flyers have tightened up defensively.

“First four games we had holes everywhere. We were giving up way too much,” Hakstol said. “Our structure, our tenacity has been pretty good.”

We’ll see if Mikhail Vorobyev can do his part and keep it trending in the right direction.

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Capitals, Hurricanes set for Game 7 clash

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Capitals, Hurricanes set for Game 7 clash

There were two Game 7 matchups Tuesday night.

On Wednesday night, we've got another one and it should be good as the defending champion Capitals try to put away the Rod Brind'Amour-led Hurricanes, who are in the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

The first-round series hasn't lacked fireworks or physicality. Game 7 should be no different.

Below is the full schedule for Day 15 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals (tied 3-3)
Game 7, Eastern Conference first round
7:30 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

Don't lose perspective with Flyers prospect Jay O'Brien

Don't lose perspective with Flyers prospect Jay O'Brien

Updated: 5:13 p.m.

The Flyers saw both ends of the spectrum with their first-round picks from the 2018 draft.

While Joel Farabee shined at Boston University this season (see story), Jay O'Brien struggled to find his game at Providence College.

After a freshman season comprised of injuries and five points (two goals, three assists) in 25 games, it appears O'Brien's time with the Friars is over.

According to a report Tuesday by Jeff Cox of the New England Hockey Journal, O'Brien has entered the NCAA transfer portal and is expected to play for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL during the 2019-20 season. However, per separate reports, O'Brien's decision for next season is still being decided.

O'Brien, a playmaking center, will have three years of college eligibility remaining.

Now, before anyone starts debating O'Brien's future, let's remember the importance of perspective with teenage prospects. 

O'Brien was perceived as a bit of project when the Flyers' previous regime of Ron Hextall and Chris Pryor selected him 19th overall last summer. Taking O'Brien at No. 19 was viewed by many as a reach, but the Flyers' scouting staff was high on the Thayer Academy product and trusted its evaluation. The Flyers took O'Brien over other centers Joseph Veleno, Rasmus Kupari and Isac Lundestrom.

This season, Veleno put up 104 points in the QMJHL, Kupari had 33 points over 43 games in Liiga (Finnish pro league) and Lundestrom appeared in 15 games with the Ducks.

O'Brien, because of his smaller stature (5-foot-11, 174 pounds) and being drafted out of prep school, had an adjustment period playing Division I hockey (see story). Multiple injuries also didn't help his cause with the transition.

But patience with O'Brien was always going to be imperative. The Flyers drafted him on a lot of upside after taking more of a guarantee in the quick-rising Farabee five picks earlier. The 19-year-old O'Brien isn't lacking in ability or work ethic. Providence head coach Nate Leaman, who led the Friars to a national title in 2015, called O'Brien's skill set "elite."

"It takes time to learn to play at the speed, to play with the lack of space," Leaman said in January during a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia (see story).

"These guys that come right from high school, it takes time and I know Philly has told us that they understand that also."

O'Brien paid little attention to pre-draft rankings last summer.

"I don't even know where I was," he said at development camp. "It doesn't mean much to me. It's not really where you get drafted, it's what you do after you get drafted."

He'll have a new path in 2019-20, another chance to prove himself. There's still plenty to like, with plenty of time.

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